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Judge denies McCann’s request for home confinement, orders him held in custody

The Paul Findley Federal Courthouse is pictured in Springfield.
Peter Hancock
Capitol News Illinois
The Paul Findley Federal Courthouse is pictured in Springfield.

After suddenly pleading guilty as his federal corruption trial was wrapping up this week, former state Sen. Sam McCann won’t be released to await sentencing, U.S. District Judge Colleen Lawless ruled Friday.

McCann has been held at Macon County Jail since last Friday, when Lawless ordered him detained for disobeying her direct orders after being discharged from a sudden hospitalization. He’s showed up to court every day since in a wheelchair, sporting a black and gray striped jail uniform and orange sandals.

Read more: Former lawmaker taken into custody amid delays to his corruption trial after sudden hospitalization

That hospital stay delayed McCann’s bench trial for more than a week before it finally kicked off Tuesday. It abruptly ended on Thursday when McCann’s attorney announced the former senator had a change of heart and wanted to plea. During the plea process, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Bass estimated McCann had stolen “in excess of $550,000” in campaign funds for personal use.

Read more: In last-minute reversal, former Sen. Sam McCann pleads guilty to corruption charges

In a brief hearing Friday morning, Bass opposed McCann’s motion to be released while awaiting his June sentencing date. Bass pointed out McCann’s active participation in trial, including taking notes and conferring with his attorney, was in stark contrast to his claims on Monday that he wasn’t coherent enough to go ahead with trial.

Additionally, Bass said, he’d been made aware of a video posted to McCann’s long-dormant social media pages on Tuesday night. In the 13-minute video, which Bass alleged was filmed as McCann drove to court last Friday morning before his arrest, McCann claims FBI agents squeezed him for incriminating information on others and said the government was coming after him with “an ungodly pack of lies.”

But McCann’s attorney, Jason Vincent, said McCann had no knowledge of the video.

“It certainly does appear to be him speaking into the camera, but my client does not recall making that particular video,” he said.

Lawless watched the video during the hearing, occasionally glancing at the defense table, chin rested on her hand as McCann made a series of accusations, including claiming the government garnished his wages to the point that he “literally could not feed my family.”

In one part of the video, McCann claims the FBI wanted him to testify that he’d joined “an unholy alliance” with former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan to “rig an election.” As punishment for not providing dirt on Madigan, McCann accused the feds of continuing to “dig and dig and dig” until they found something to charge him with.

Madigan faces his own unrelated federal corruption charges in the Northern District of Illinois with a trial scheduled for later this year.

Read more: Madigan trial delayed until October for SCOTUS review of bribery statute

McCann said in the video his case is proof the U.S. has become a “deep state, Orwellian society, the darkness of which we will not come out of for thousands of years if we do not do something to take it back now.”

After the video played, Bass told Lawless that during case discovery a couple of years ago, McCann had received recordings of federal agents meeting with McCann beyond the three hours of tapes played during trial this week.

“I can tell you, your honor, the name ‘Madigan’ doesn’t appear anywhere in those recordings,” Bass said.

After being shown a Macon County Jail photo of the clothes McCann was wearing in court prior to his arrest last Friday – which matched the blue button-down and red tie McCann was wearing in the video – Lawless was convinced that McCann had made the video while driving to court that day.

And, she said, the fact that he was coherently talking while driving didn’t match with McCann’s later claim that he “didn’t even remember” making the roughly one-hour drive to Springfield last Friday.

“It appears as though he was sitting there telling me another story,” Lawless said.

Read more: McCann trial delayed another day as he cancels plan to represent himself

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and TV stations statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

Hannah Meisel is a reporter at Capitol News Illinois, based in Springfield. Email: hmeisel@capitolnewsillinois.com

She’s had a number of assignments covering the Statehouse and Illinois government since the 2014 legislative session, most recently serving as Statehouse editor for NPR Illinois from 2020 until after the November 2022 election. Prior to that, Meisel worked at The Daily Line, Law 360 and Illinois Public Media in addition to various assignments for other outlets.
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